Family films to see at the cinema
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
Disney’s 1941 classic about the baby elephant whose oversized ears enable him to fly is the latest to get the live action treatment, but, directed by Tim Burton, it’s as ponderously drab as it looks onscreen. In the original, Dumbo never flew until the final moments of wonderment, here it happens early on, rendering the subsequent flying scenes increasingly less magical.
It’s 1919 and Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns from the front minus an arm, his wife having died in his absence, to rejoin his two children, science-obsessed Milly (Nico Parker) and the younger Joe ( Finley Hobbins), and the circus where he was the star trick-rider attraction.
Stuffed with familiar Disney messages about family, faith in yourself and how being different doesn’t made you a freak, although Dumbo looking scared in his clown makeup on a circus platform might prompt a slight twinge in the heart while, it never hits any high emotional notes, reinforced by a final sequence of Dumbo and his mom rejoining the herd. With big, sad blue eyes, the digital Dumbo is impressively rendered, the human cast less so. Keaton hams it up like a pantomime villain, DeVito does either bluster or befuddled, Green lacks any spark and Farrell’s forgettable as the dad who doesn’t know how to respond to his kids, arguably best things on two legs . There’s a scene involving the original film’s tender song Baby Mine as well as a reference to When I See An Elephant Fly and a recreation of the surreal Pink Elephants on Parade using shape-shifting soap bubbles, but they never feel more than knowing nods. There are some individual moments of spectacle, but given Burton’s past work, imagination is mostly as thin on the ground here as is genuine emotion. 112 mins Also in 3D
LGWTC Guidance: You might believe an elephant can fly, but the film never does.
Abandoned by his mother at a fairground when he was much younger, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a troubled 14-year-old who’s been through an array of foster homes, ending up becoming part of Victor and Maria Vasquez’s extended multi-ethnic Philadelphia foster family which includes gaming nerd Eugene, college student Mary (Grace Fulton), shy Pedro, young but extrovert Darla (a winning Faithe Herman) and disabled sarcastic superhero nut Freddy (Jack Dylan Granger, terrific).
Shortly after Billy comes to Freddy’s aid when he’s set on by the school bullies, he takes the subway train only to find himself stepping out into an underground cavern occupied by an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who’s been waiting years to find someone pure of heart to whom he can pass his powers. The fun, however, comes to an abrupt end when the now grown and wealthy Sivana (Mark Strong) tracks him down, first becoming the host body to the seven deadly sins, and then trying to wrest Shazam’s power for himself.
It’s a little less successful when it plays the emotional cards, but, unlike recent DC Universe offerings, this plays light rather than dark, from a montage of Freddy testing out Billy’s new powers to a last act introduction of the whole Shazam! Family that, along with obligatory end credits scene, sets things up for a welcome sequel. 132 mins Also in 3D
LGWTC Guidance: The word is good.
Wonder Park (PG)
From an early age, June (Brianna Denski) and her mom (Jennifer Garner) made up stories together about Wonderland, a theme park packed with wild rides and run by talking animals, bear greeter Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell), hyper beaver twins Gus (Kenan Thompson) and Cooper (Ken Jeong), Steve (John Oliver), a neurotic but highly educated (parents should be prepared to explain existentialism to the kids) porcupine who’s lovesick for Greta (Mila Kunis) the warthog who’s in charge and Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz), the chimp who magically creates the rides when June whispers into the ear of his cuddly toy counterpart.
But then, suddenly, mom gets sick and disappears from the film, leaving a dejected June with her bumbling dad (Matthew Broderick) who, when she packs up her model, puts the toys in a box and burns the lay out plan, decides the best thing is to pack her off to a math camp, Camp Awe+Sum, for the summer. She never gets there. Instead, abandoning the bus, she heads into the wood planning to return home, but a fragment of the burnt map lures her further on where she discovers the park of her imagination, except it’s fallen into disrepair and the animals are being besieged by toy monkeys that have turned into Chimpan-Zombies and are tearing the place apart and feeding it into ‘the darkness’, a huge black cloud hovering over the park, Peanut having hidden himself away feeling abandoned since he stopped getting those messages.
It’s thrillingly animated and the physical action and animal antics may engage a younger audience, but, despite the worthy idea about dealing with your feelings when someone you care for is ill, the execution is a confused jumble that never coherently hangs together, likely to leave older children and adults wondering what it was all about. 85 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Bemusement park
Missing Link (PG)
The latest stop-motion/CG animation from Laika, the studio behind Coraline and Kubo & The Two Strings, is a much more lighthearted affair. Hugh Jackman voices Sir Lionel Frost, a self-absorbed English Victorian explorer who’s desperate to become part of an exclusive explorers’ club which, headed up by pompous bigot Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), treats his attempts to prove the existence of mythological creatures with disdain.
However, when he receives a letter offering to lead him to the fabled Sasquatch, he strikes a deal that, if he can provide proof, Piggot-Dunceby will let him join and duly sets of to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest where he does indeed meet up with the titular missing link (Zach Galifianakis). To his surprise, the hairy creature, is a charmingly affable fellow who speaks excellent English, even if he takes things overly literally, who, rather than wanting Frost to reveal his existence, wants him to help find his Asian cousins, the Yetis, as, one of his kind, he’s rather lonely.
The emphasis very much on colourful fun, combining physical comedy with fish out of water gags and wordplay jokes, it downplays the romantic interest angle the younger audience might find too soppy, but unerringly hits all the emotional notes, ending up back in London with the promise of future adventures from this unlikely adventurer version of Holmes and Watson. 95 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Get Linked in.
Family films in Cinemas now!
Captain Marvel (12A)
The first standalone female superhero in the cinematic Marvel Universe, Vers (a dynamite Brie Larson), is a Kree warrior, part of an elite group led by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), engaged in her planet’s ongoing war with the shape-changing lizard-like Skrulls and their quest for galactic domination. Except she keeps having memories about a life she’s never had and of a scientist called Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) who turns up in dreams of both a plane and a shoot-out and whom, unfathomably, is also the shape taken by her visualisation of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, which manifests as someone important to you
As such, the film centres around her search to find her true identity, and how she’s linked to human test pilot named Carol Danvers who was killed in a crash six years ago, the central idea being that, like the Skrulls, things and people are not always what or who they appear to be.
The film’s set in 1995, as Vers finds herself marooned on Earth after an encounter with the Skrulls and seeking to reconnect with her squad, but not before eliminating the Skrulls who, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), have also infiltrated the planet. As such there’s several jokes about Earth’s backwards technology while Vers’ explosive arrival attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D in the form of a younger and still two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as well as rookie recruit Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). With incontrovertible evidence of the existence of aliens, Fury joins forces with Vers who explains she has to locate Lawson’s secret lab and destroy the plans for a lightspeed engine before the Skrulls can get to it. All of which reconnects her with Danvers’ former fellow test pilot and single mom best friend, Maria (Lashana Lynch), and her smart kid daughter Monica (Akira Akbar).
Providing a back story to the The Avengers Initiative and the end credits linking to the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, the film balances potent character development and emotional core with the dynamic action sequences and special effects, misdirecting you as to who may or may not be the villains of the piece.
LGWTC guidance: In the midst of battle, Marvel breaks out into a big grin and shouts ‘Yeah’. You’ll feel like doing the same thing. 124 mins Also in 2D and 3D IMAX
Introduced in last year’s Justice League movie, Aquaman gets his own solo outing, at almost two and half hours is as bloated as things get when they spend too much time underwater, only really taking off in the final stretch. On the plus side, unlike the recent DC adaptations, it has a lighter tone, one that Jason Momoa makes the most of as Arthur Curry, the heavily tattooed son of Massachusetts lighthouse keeper Tom (Temuera Morrison) and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the Queen of Atlantis, who washed up on the rocks after fleeing an arranged marriage. They fell in love and she gave birth to Arthur, only to have Atlantean stormtroopers burst in to take her home. Thus, Tom’s left to raise their son, clearly an odd one since he chats to the fish and his eyes kind of glow greeny-yellow.
Meanwhile, Atlanna apparently had another son, Orm (Patrick Wilson), before being consigned to death by sea-monster, who’s all a bit Loki to Arthur’s Thor and wants to unite the underwater kingdoms so he can proclaim himself Ocean Master and wage war on the surface world. The only way to stop him is if Arthur takes up his Atlantean heritage, something red-haired, emerald-clad princess Mera (Amber Heard) has come to persuade him to do, except Arthur would rather hang out in the bar where guys who call him “that fish boy from the TV” want to pose for selfies.
Still,duly persuaded to do the right thing and having been secretly trained as a boy by Orm’s vizier (Willem Dafoe), brother meets brother in ritual combat, before Arthur has to take off with Mera in search of the mythical Lost Trident of Atlan to prove himself the true king and ride into the confusing big underwater battle everyone’s come to see, on a giant seahorse.
Unfortunately, for all Momoa’s charisma, getting there is a laborious slog where the only depth is in the ocean and you feel you’re constantly swimming against the current. 143 mins Also in IMAX 3D
LGWTC guidance: Waterlogged
Fighting With The Family (12A)
Written by Stephen Merchant, who also makes his directing debut, and featuring cameos from Dwayne Johnson as his real-life alter ego The Rock, this is the true story of Saraya ‘Paige’ Bevis (Florence Pugh) who, coming from a family of English professional wrestlers now making a living performing at small venues around the country, dreams of becoming a part of WWE. While Dwayne Johnson may loom large in the posters, don’t go along expecting him to be the star, it’s not his film and it’s not his story! In the try-outs, however, she has to compete against her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden), who has the same ambitions. Also starring Vince Vaughn as the caustic wrestling coach with Lena Headey and Nick Frost as Saraya’s flambouyant parents, slick, glossy and sometimes crude, it’s a fairly straightforward underdog story with some family conflict and sibling rivalry thrown in for good measure and Johnson taking the opportunity to send himself up. Paige, in fact, went on, in her debut match on the main roster in 2014, to become the WWE’s youngest ever champion.
Condensing the story of Paige’s journey to become the WWE’s youngest Divas Champion, Merchant charts a predictable course, but does so with such crowd-pleasing heart and humour that, perfectly balancing laughs and lump-in-throat poignancy, the film is always hugely entertaining, Johnson cheerfully sending himself up while Pugh lights up the screen with her mix of determination and insecurity.
LGWTC Guidance: As Ricky says, the fights are fixed, but there’s nothing fake about the film’s chokehold emotions.
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.